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Song title: The promise


The promise - Tracks version

Johnny works in a factory and Billy works downtown
Terry works in a rock and roll band
Lookin' for that million-dollar sound
I got a little job down in Darlington
But some nights I don't go
Some nights I go to the drive-in, or some nights I stay home
I followed that dream just like those guys do up on the screen
And I drive a Challenger down Route 9 through the dead ends and all the bad scenes
And when the promise was broken, I cashed in a few of my dream

Well now I built that Challenger by myself
But I needed money and so I sold it
I lived a secret I should'a kept to myself
But I got drunk one night and I told it
All my life I fought this fight
The fight that no man can never win
Every day it just gets harder to live
This dream I'm believing in
Thunder Road, oh baby you were so right
Thunder Road there's something dyin' on the highway tonight

I won big once and I hit the coast
But somehow I paid the big cost
Inside I felt like I was carryin' the broken spirits
Of all the other ones who lost
When the promise is broken you go on living
But it steals something from down in your soul
Like when the truth is spoken and it don't make no difference
Something in your heart goes cold
I followed that dream through the southwestern flats
That dead ends in two-bit bars
And when the promise was broken I was far away from home
Sleepin' in the back seat of a borrowed car
Thunder Road, for the lost lovers and all the fixed games
Thunder Road, for the tires rushing by in the rain
Thunder Road, Billy and me we'd always say
Thunder Road, we were gonna take it all and throw it all away

Notes: "18 Tracks" version.
Recorded during the Darkness sessions, played spotty from 1976 (premiered 3-Aug-1976, Red Bank, NJ) to 15-Jul-1978 with some variations on lyrics (Terry or Billy in the last verse). Then silence until the reunion tour, where, after being released in a re-recorded version, it appeared few times with Bruce on piano.


The promise - 03-Aug-1976 "the loser"

Johnny works in a factory
Oh and Billy works downtown
Terry works in a rock and roll band
Searching for that million dollar sound
And me, I don't do nothing much
I spend a lot of time alone
Some nights I go to the movies
And some nights I stay home
I followed that dream
Just like those guys do
Way up on the screen
Drove a cut down Challenger on Saturday night
Through the dead ends and all the bad scenes
But when the promise was broken
I cashed in a few of those dreams
Whoaaaa

Well now, I built that Challenger by myself
But I needed money, and so I sold it
I lived a secret I should've kept to myself
But I got drunk one night and I told it
And once I had a girl who loved me so
I guess I'd loved her too if I had the sense
But somehow, I can never let myself go
My love is no good in the end

'Cause it's a loser *
I'm gonna sit by this window 'til things work out all right
'Cause it's a loser *
There's something burning down on the highway tonight

Well now I won big once and I hit the coast
But I paid a big cost
Inside, I felt like I was carrying the broken spirits
Of all the other ones who'd lost
When the promise was broken, I went on living
But man, it takes something from down in your soul
When the truth is spoken
And it don't make no difference
Something in your heart turns cold

Because I followed that dream
Through the dusty towns and all the two-bit bars
And when the promise was broken
I was drunk and far away from home
Sleeping with a stranger
In the back seat of a borrowed car

For it's a loser *
Here's one for the lost lovers and all the fixed games
It's a loser *
Here's one for the tires rushing by in the rain
It's a loser *
And the way me and Billy, we'd always say
It's a loser *
We was going to take it all and throw it all away


The promise - Fall - winter 76 - early 77

Johnny works in a factory, Billy works downtown
Terry works in a rock & roll band
Looking for that million dollar sound
Me I don't do nothing much
I spend a lot of time alone
Some nights I go to the drive-in
And some nights I stay home
You see I followed that dream
Just like those guys do way up on the screen
Drove a built up Challenger
Down Route 9
Through the dead ends and all the bad scenes
And when the promise was broken
I cashed in a few of my dreams

Well see I built that Challenger by myself
But I needed money and so I sold it
And I lived a secret I should've kept to myself
But I got drunk one night and I told it
All my life I fought that fight
The one that no man can ever win
And every day it just gets harder
To live the dream I'm believing in

Thunder Road....
I stay up every morning until it turns light
Thunder Road....
There's something dying out on the highway tonight

Well now I won big once and I hit the coast
Oh but somehow I paid the big cost
Inside I felt like I was carrying
The broken spirits of all the other ones who'd lost
When the promise is broken you go on living
But man it takes something from down in your soul
Like when the truth is spoken, and it don't make no difference
Something in your heart grows cold
Cause I followed that dream, me and some guys *
Through the dead ends and all the two-bit bars
The night the promise was broken
I was drunk and far away from home
Sleeping in the back seat of a borrowed car

Thunder Road....
Here's one for the lost lovers and all the fixed games
Thunder Road....
Here's one for the tires rushing by in the rain
Thunder Road....
I remember when me and Ruth, we'd always say
Thunder Road....
We were gonna take it all, and throw it all away


The promise - Studio 77-78

Johnny works in a factory and Billy works downtown
Terry works in a rock & roll band
Looking for that million dollar sound
Me I don't do nothing
I spend a lot of time alone
Some nights I go to the drive-in
And some nights I stay home
Well I followed that dream
Just like those guys do way up on the screen
Drove that Challenger
Down Route 9
Through the dead ends and all the bad scenes
When the promise was broken
I cashed in a few of my old dreams

Well now I built that Challenger by myself
But I needed money and so I sold it
And I lived a secret I should've kept to myself
But I got drunk one night and I guess I just told it
All my life I fought this fight
The one that no man can never win
And every day it just gets harder
To live the dream I'm believing in

Thunder Road....
I stay up every morning until it turns light
Thunder Road....
There's something burning down the highway tonight

Well now I won big once and I hit the coast
Oh but somehow I paid the big cost
Inside I felt like I was carrying
The broken spirits of all the other ones who'd lost
When the promise is broken you go on living
But man it steals something from down in your soul
Like when the truth is spoken, and it don't make no difference
Something in your heart grows cold
Well I followed that dream, to the mid-west flat tracks
To the dead ends and the two-bit bars
When the promise was broken
I was far away from home
Sleeping in the back seat of a borrowed car

Thunder Road....
Here's one for the lost lovers and all the fixed games
Thunder Road....
Here's one for the tires rushing by in the rain
Thunder Road....
I remember when we, we'd always say
Thunder Road....
We were gonna take it all, and throw it all away


The promise - Reunion tour

Johnny works in a factory and Billy works downtown
Terry works in a rock and roll band looking for that million-dollar sound
And I got a little job down in Darlington but some nights I don't go
Some nights I go to the drive-in, whoa some nights I stay home

I followed that dream just like those guys do way up on the screen
And I drove a Challenger down route 9
Through the dead-ends and all the bad scenes
And when the promise was broken I cashed in a few of my dreams

Well now I built that Challenger by myself
But I needed money and so I sold it
And I lived a secret I should have kept to myself
But I got drunk one night and I told it
All my life I fought this fight
The fight that no man can ever win
And everyday it just gets harder to live
This dream I'm believing in
Thunder Road
Oh baby you were so right
Thunder Road
There's something dying down on the highway tonight

I won big once and I hit the coast
Oh but somehow I paid the big cost
Inside I felt like I was carrying
The broken spirits of all the other ones who'd lost
When the promise is broken you go on living
But it steals something from down in your soul
Like when the truth is spoken, and it don't make no difference
Something in your heart grows cold

I followed that dream, to the south-west tracks
The dead ends, the two-bit bars
When the promise was broken
I was far away from home
Sleeping in the back seat of a borrowed car

Thunder Road....
For the lost lovers and all the fixed games
Thunder Road....
For the tires rushing by in the rain
Thunder Road....
I remember when me and Billy, we'd always say
Thunder Road....
We were gonna take it all, and throw it all away


The promise - 1978 version

Johnny works in a factory and Billy works downtown
Terry works in a rock and roll band looking for that million-dollar sound
And I got a little job down in Darlington but some nights I don't go
Some nights I go to the drive-in, whoa some nights I stay home

I followed that dream just like those guys do way up on the screen
And I drove a Challenger down route 9
Through the dead-ends and all the bad scenes
And when the promise was broken I cashed in a few of my dreams

Well now I built that Challenger by myself
But I needed money and so I sold it
And I lived a secret I should have kept to myself
But I got drunk one night and I told it
All my life I fought this fight
The fight that no man can ever win
And everyday it just gets harder to live
This dream I'm believing in
Thunder Road
Oh baby you were so right
Thunder Road
There's something dying down on the highway tonight

Well now my daddy taught me how to walk quiet
And how to make my peace with the past
And I learned real good to tighten up inside
And I don't say nothing unless I'm asked
When the promise is broken you go on living
But it steals something from down in your soul
Like when the truth is spoken, and it don't make no difference
Something in your heart grows cold

I followed that dream, to the south-west tracks
The dead ends, the two-bit bars
When the promise was broken
I was far away from home
Sleeping in the back seat of a borrowed car

Thunder Road....
And when it washes away with the rain
Thunder Road....
You learn to walk among the remains
Thunder Road....
I remember when me and Billy, we'd always say
Thunder Road....
We were gonna take it all, and throw it all away
Throw it all away


The promise - 'The Promise' version

Johnny works in a factory and Billy works downtown
Terry works in a rock and roll band lookin' for that million-dollar sound
And I got a little job down in Darlington but some nights I don't go
Some nights I go to the drive-in or some nights I stay home
I followed that dream just like those guys do way up on the screen
And I drove a Challenger down Route 9 through the dead ends and all the bad scenes
And when the promise was broken, I cashed in a few of my own dreams

Well now I built that Challenger by myself, but I needed money and so I sold it
I lived a secret I should'a kept to myself, but I got drunk one night and I told it
All my life I fought this fight, the fight that no man can ever win
Every day it just gets harder to live this dream I'm believing in
Thunder Road, oh baby you were so right
Thunder Road, there's somethin' dyin' down on the highway tonight

I won big once and I hit the coast, oh but somehow I paid the big cost
Inside I felt like I was carrying the broken spirits of all the other ones who lost
When the promise is broken you go on living, but it steals something from down in your soul
Like when the truth is spoken and it don't make no difference, somethin' in your heart turns cold
Thunder Road, for the lost lovers and all the fixed games
Thunder Road, for the tires rushing by in the rain
Thunder Road, remember what me and Billy we'd always say
Thunder Road, we were gonna take it all then threw it all away


Statistics from the KILLING FLOOR (www.brucespringsteen.it) database


Published on the following official releases:

First known live performance: 03/08/1976 Monmouth Arts Centre, Red Bank,NJ ,USA
Last known live performance: 25/06/2016 Ullevi Stadium, Goteborg ,Sweden

Song 'history':


Played during the Born to Run tour (20 times)
Recorded during the DARKNESS studio sessions, but then not used for the album.
Bruce inserted it 20 times in the setlists of the Darkness tour
Released for the first (official) time on the 18-TRACKS CD.
Not much used during the Reunion tour, deserving only 3 renderings
The last NY show(s) of the Reunion Tour were released in both CD and DVD (more songs) 'LIVE IN NYC', which included also this song
Bruce gave this song only two shots through the Rising tour (20/10/2002 Velodrom, Berlin ,Germany and 21/11/2002 TD Waterhouse, Orlando,FL ,USA)
Not much used during the Devils and Dust tour, deserving only less than a dozen renderings
Published on the 'The Promise' Album, released in November 2010.
Another version of the song also appears on the 'The Promise' Album, released in November 2010, in the Thrill Hill Vault 1976-1978 DVD volume
During the Wrecking Ball tour, the song was played less than a dozen times
Bruce gave this song only two shots through the High Hopes tour (08/02/2014 Perth Arena, Perth ,Australia and 22/04/2014 Consol Energy Center, Pittsburgh,PA ,USA)
Bruce gave this song one only shot through the 2016 The River tour (25/06/2016 Ullevi Stadium, Goteborg ,Sweden)

The song was also played in informal happenings or off-tour appearances
Data from the www.brucespringsteen.it database